LA PLANCHE DES BELLES FILLES SKI STATION, France – With two weeks left in the Tour de France, the two-man showdown that many predicted is taking shape, with Britain’s Bradley Wiggins already in the yellow jersey – and driver’s seat – while Cadel Evans isn’t.
The 31-year-old Briton and his Team Sky dominated the race’s first summit finish Saturday, with Christopher Froome winning Stage 7 ahead of Evans and Wiggins close on the Australian defending champion’s back wheel.
In the 123-mile trek from Tomblaine to La Planche des Belles Filles, Wiggins took the overall lead from Switzerland’s Fabian Cancellara and gave Britain its first yellow jersey in 12 years – and the first for Sky.
“It’s a great day for the team, we won the stage and took the yellow jersey,” Wiggins said in French. “This is my first time in the yellow jersey. It’s incredible – it’s been a dream of mine since I was a kid.”
As the pack disintegrated on the final climb, Evans tried an attack just before the super-steep patch in the last half-mile, but Froome beat him and made it look easy, leading Evans to wonder what he might be in for later.
Cancellara, a time-trial and one-day classics specialist who had worn yellow since winning the prologue a week ago, was 1 minute, 52 seconds behind Froome – but more important, 1:50 back of Wiggins.
The Sky leader, who began the day 7 seconds behind Cancellara in second place, leads Evans by 10 seconds. Vincenzo Nibali of Italy was fourth to climb to third overall, 16 seconds behind.
Wiggins, a three-time Olympic track gold medalist looking to become Britain’s first Tour champion, became the prerace favorite after winning the Paris-Nice, Tour de Romandie and Criterium du Dauphine stage races this year.
Wiggins has more breathing room than Cancellara when he was leader. Only five riders are within a minute of Wiggins, including Denis Menchov of Russia, who won the 2009 Giro d’Italia and the Spanish Vuelta – twice. The Swiss rider, by contrast, had had 22 riders within 48 seconds of his lead as Saturday’s stage began.
With two time trials and more climbing days in the Alps and Pyrenees still to come, Wiggins played down speculation that he might’ve taken the lead too early.
“You can’t get too cocky in this race and choose when you take the yellow jersey. I’d much rather be in yellow than in hospital – like half the peloton,” he said, referring to injuries from crashes.